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|Private versus Public Education
Written by Robbin
(10/21/2006 3:50 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Disciplne, penned by Maisy
Perhaps JA was making the criticism of private education appear as foolish as she probably thought it was by giving it to one such as Robert? The description of the conditions at Winchester by LeFaye and yours of Westminster makes it hard for me to immediately see how Robert became the frippery dandy that he is if he preserved under such conditions; perhaps it is a over reaction to such harsh conditions and the need to fit in with his peers that made him what he is? I agree, Robert is certainly a man of fashion rather than a man of sense like his brother (not forgetting Edward’s foolish and immature engagement)—but then Mrs. Ferrars and Fanny share many of the same values as Robert although I do not see them as foppish so public schooling cannot be completely to blame for the foolish fashionable snobbery of him or private schooling be completely responsible for the goodness of Edward.
"My judgment," he returned, "is all on your side of the question; but I am afraid my practice is much more on your sister's. I never wish to offend, but I am so foolishly shy, that I often seem negligent, when I am only kept back by my natural aukwardness. I have frequently thought that I must have been intended by nature to be fond of low company, I am so little at my ease among strangers of gentility!" (Chapter 17)
Robert seems to criticize private schools for their lack of an appropriate social environment rather than any lack of education—more fool him but as much as I hate to say it, I do see some of what Robert is saying about public school promoting the ability to socialize with peers. The only way to learn to deal with people is to be with people so confining Edward to the society of Longstaple for long periods of time did not help Edward to know how to move in the sphere to which he was born and Edward says this himself in Chapter 17 above and additionally criticizes himself for being shy because "Shyness is only the effect of a sense of inferiority in some way or other. If I could persuade myself that my manners were perfectly easy and graceful, I should not be shy." I think Edward is hard on himself because he sees his situation with Lucy as completely his fault and now he must suffer the consequences--unable to court the lady he truly esteems. Since he met Elinor I think the real horror of his situation has become real to him and he must ponder why he should have made so foolish an engagement.
I think the question—would Edward be more compliant to his mothers wishes if he had been beaten into submission during his education is a good one but I am not sure of an answer because I am not sure Robert is completely submissive to his mother. The way Robert speaks of her (Mrs. Ferrars) is not very respectful and does not jive much with what we have seen or heard of her. In Chapter 36 Robert says Mrs. Ferrars agrees with him that the evil of Edward’s ways was completely her own doing for giving him a private education and cannot be undone. This is a hard story for me to swallow considering how Fanny, who is not a weak woman IMO, acted extremely conciliatory towards her mother at the Harley Street dinner party in Chapter 34 for accidentally allowing Elinor to be praised in her presence but then actually allowing her mother the opportunity to say something nice about Elinor by placing the screens in her hands. Fanny so much wishes to makeup for this error than she soothes it over by comparing Elinor’s work to Miss Morton’s allowing her mother yet another opportunity to favor another over Elinor. I think Robert may be coloring his relationship with his mother to make himself appear right or wise which might reflect a submissive history at school and the need to appear less submissive now to she who holds his furture in her cold little hands. So far we have not seen any conservation between Robert and his mother to verify his version of the story and I cannot imagine her admitting she is wrong even if she believed she was. (;D)
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